By Dave Soto
As a baby-faced brown kid from a not so nice part of Chicago, I was truly excited to find my place and people at the University of Illinois. A change of scenery and demographic seemed like exactly what I needed to establish myself as an adult in this not so forgiving world. There was just one problem, though–I had no idea how to do it.
There are around 49,000 students on this campus and you’d think, with that many people, it would be easy to make friends and find things to do. But I found it pretty difficult at first. My first semester here was underwhelming, to say the least. My anxiety and overall lack of motivation kept me homebound, where I would either sit in front of my laptop binging whatever Netflix series was popular at the time, or fumble through musical scales on my guitar while my roommate was out living it up. Safe to say, it probably didn’t do much good for my mental health to be cooped within the plain white walls of my dorm room.
It wasn’t really until maybe October, when I made a post on the UIUC subreddit, that I even talked to anyone on campus. I made a post where I invited any musicians to meet up on the quad to try and get some music going on. I remember thinking that no one would show up. There was this knot in my stomach as I walked down the street,my guitar in hand, trying to summon the bravery to just go out there. To my surprise, there were two guys there standing in front of the alma mater, one with a ukulele and one carrying an electric guitar and amp. It didn’t take long before more people showed up. These two guys from Austria,a guy from Chile, a saxophone player, this Pink Floyd fan, and even some random dude who walked up and asked if we were an RSO. We got together in a cramped room because the music building wouldn’t practice and we started playing. It didn’t matter that a third of us were guitar players or that the room was insanely hot. We were a bunch of strangers taking part in this experience. That’s really when I knew I was in college.
I wish I knew it was that easy. I wish I had known sooner that, in a campus this big and this diverse, all it takes is one post on a discussion forum to be able to create these bonds. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same ship, as cheesy as it sounds. We’re together in this experience, and the only keeping us from realizing that is ourselves.
Cover image credit: W-ILL Illinois